A new wind power report just came out of the US Department Of Energy that bodes very well for future wind power growth. After a difficult year in 2009, record growth is expected to continue 2010-12. In fact, wind power is expected to be the biggest source of new electricity supply during the period, providing 60% of new demand. Wind power is expected to dethrone natural gas as the top source of new electricity for our country.
Turbine Prices to Fall, White Hot Growth Rates to Return
Turbine prices have increased since 2001 as demand growth has been through the roof. Turbine prices actually doubled over the seven years from a low ~75 cents per watt to ~$1.50 per watt in mid-2008. But the deep recession is inducing lower demand in 2009 (down 20-50% from the record high of 8.5 GW hit in 2008). This lower demand has allowed wind turbine supply to catch up, sending prices back toward lows of a few years ago as I mentioned a few weeks back. The grid parity I wrote may be reached by 2012 for solar was reached by wind power years ago (when the federal Production Tax Credit is included). As wind prices get more competitive and financial markets recover, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that record growth will return to the US market in 2010-12, sending demand to consecutive record highs of 10.4 GW, 11.9 GW, and 13.7 GW!
Another recent DOE report outlines a growth path to 20% of US electricity coming from wind by 2030 that has been far surpassed these past three years and by the EIA projections above. Thus, we may be able to reach 20% wind by 2025 or earlier.
Wind Farm Performance Improving
The capacity factor (percentage of time wind is producing its potential) for wind farms has improved over the years. Back before 1998, the capacity factor was in the low 20% range. Since 2005, the capacity factor has been 35-37%.
What About Solar and Other Renewables?
If wind provides 60% of new electricity demand in 2012, can solar, geothermal, and biomass provide a bulk of the remainder? My current projection is for solar to provide ~10% of EIA's projected new demand in 2012 (over 2.5 GW). If geothermal and biomass can add a similar chunk together, we'll only need a couple of new natural gas or coal plants that year (less than 20% of new capacity).
Bottom Line: Wind power has gone through tremendous growth in the US and worldwide. The EIA predict lower turbine prices and healthier financial markets will bring new record growth for the renewable electricity provider -- making wind the leading source of new power for America. If we have similar rates of growth for other renewables, our need for new fossil fuel power plants will be miniscule by 2012. Let's make it happen!
Onwards in the Sustainable Energy Transition-